Summer is approaching, and so is the Castle of Cadavers development process :)
However, this time the subject is not the upcoming tileset, but the very beginning of my Jazz Jackrabbit 2 tileset making fever. Heck, at that time I didn't even use the nick you guys know me today.
I have little knowledge left of those early days. Almost nothing was saved to computer hard disks or if something was, it has been long gone from this newest machine I've been using. I have to rely on the early documents I included in my first public JJ2 releases and my dear teenager memories :)
I do not remember what my first tileset was like. Blade's Battle Pack (2000) readme implies, that before Aztec there could have been two to three experiment tilesets. Some of the JJ2 community people who were present in the Jazz2Online (http://www.jazz2online.com) in years around 2000-2001 may remember some of my talks about these covert operations. These two years were my most active in the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 community, as eight tilesets were released and continuously updated to new versions. Additionally, I spent a lot of time playing Jazz2 online. At those times I also uploaded some level packs. You may remember Another Dimension. It was a episode that featured every official Jazz2 there are. The first level in the episode, Spike Beach, is the first Blade level there is.
I can't tell you what I don't remember, so obviously, now comes the part that I know. Two tilesets were before Aztec. These were called A-Space and Bay. A-Space was a short lived space-tileset, where I added to the tileset a bunch of planet pictures from the Internet. The idea didn't work, although it was entertaining to walk on a miniature Saturn. The major problem was, that I didn't know how to get the 256-color palette working. My tileset source picture was in 256 colors, but I didn't realize that the game needs some colors from the palette to its own use. Outcome: the surroundings were in blossom with all known colors, but Spaz and Jazz are totally black. All the carrots, lizards, normal turtles and apples black, black, black. 14-year old me didn't know what to do. There is no picture left of A-Space. I don't think it is a major problem, I didn't use much time making the thing. I drew (and extercised copy-paste manouver) the tileset with attitude: "Let's see what happens when I do this".
In early 2000, some months before Aztec (here's a link to a slightly newer version of Aztec, although earliest that still exists in the Internet: http://www.jazz2online.com/J2Ov2/downloads/info.php?levelID=199) was released, I made a tileset called Bay. This is the tileset you see to your right, and as you can see, it shares many things with the Aztec tileset. Bay was the first tileset I knew how to handle the color palette, and lo, I had accomplished in making a working tileset. I vaguely remember that it was a day of great joy for me. For an unknown reason Bay was not released as my first JJ2 creation. I instead started to invest to a new tileset we now know as Aztec. One of the reasons I can think of is that Bay and Aztec were actually created simultaneously, and I thought Aztec to be more interesting idea. Bay was, after all, only a skeleton of a tileset with a few ground tiles and scarce mountains in the background. The airbrush-made clouds looked funny in the background layers 5-7, and were not looking very good with a warping background in layer 8.
The Bay version you see here is not exactly the first one. Above the darker mountains you see the one tile with the tileset palette in it. This one tile has been the key to me to make warping backgrounds to work in 8-bit mode in Jazz Jackrabbit 2. An old JJ2 buddy Iceman introduced this trick to me, and I have been using it ever since. Interestingly, I have never understood why one petty tile makes the color mode problems go away. This particular tile must act some part in the tileset compiling process.
One of the interesting facts visible in this Bay tileset is my nickname. I became Blade for good only a few months before the release of Aztec in the late Universe Jazz in March 2000. It shows that in Bay I was called "Giant". Heh. I speculated some options on nicknames, for example, the third option was "Atomic". Not so surprisingly, I got the "bright" idea when I was on a skiing trip in the northern Finland. I can't remember the origin of the nick Blade. I probably used the name for the first time in 1998 when I used to take part in conversation in the Internet chat rooms (Kiss.fi ^^). I am pretty sure the name Blade is taken from the 1998 feature film, which I didn't even see before the new millenium.